In a metaphorically appropriate ruling yesterday, porn star Stormy Daniels saw her legal suit hit the floor like a discarded stripper’s costume. A federal judge not only dismissed Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against Trump, but he is also requiring the adult actress and one-time alleged Trump paramour to pay the president’s legal fees in the case.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, had filed suit against the president after he tweeted last April that Daniels’ story about being intimidated by an unknown assailant was a “con job.” Prior to the 2016 election, Daniels had threatened to go public about her sexual exploits with the married Mr. Trump and later claimed that Team Trump had sent the man to silence her.
Federal District Judge James Otero wrote in his decision dismissing the case that “the tweet in question constitutes 'rhetorical hyperbole' normally associated with politics and public discourse in the United States. The First Amendment protects this type of rhetorical statement.” The decision also stipulates that Daniels must pay the president’s legal fees in the case.
In a statement to CNN, Trump lawyer Charles Harder gloated, “No amount of spin or commentary by Stormy Daniels or her lawyer, Mr. Avenatti, can truthfully characterize today's ruling in any way other than total victory for President Trump and total defeat for Stormy Daniels.” Harder said that the attorney fees owed by Daniels would be determined later.
A second lawsuit between Daniels and the president is still pending and is not affected by yesterday’s ruling. The second case involves both President Trump and his former attorney Michael Cohen and stems from the $130,000 payment that Trump made to Daniels as part of their nondisclosure agreement. The second suit alleges that the NDA is not valid because Trump did not personally sign the contract.
On Twitter, Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti blasted the statement by Harder and called the NDA lawsuit “the main case… due to its allegations of conduct that constitutes a federal crime.” Avenatti said that Trump would owe Daniels “attorneys’ fees and costs in connection with the NDA case that will far exceed any fees or costs awarded in the defamation action.”
Legal scholar Eugene Volokh examined the NDA last March after Daniels filed suit and attempted to clear the murky waters of the agreement. Per Volokh, the law may not require Trump’s signature to make the agreement valid, but there are other issues that may invalidate the contract including the fact that since Trump is now president restraining the speech of an individual may represent a violation of the First Amendment.
But Trump’s legal team may have rendered the NDA lawsuit moot. Last month, Trump agreed not to enforce the NDA or sue Daniels for violating its terms. That leaves the possibility that Daniels and Avenatti may pursue the case in hopes of pinning campaign finance violations on Donald Trump or of winning legal fees in the case. Michael Cohen has already pled guilty to campaign finance violations related to the payoff to Daniels.
For now, Team Trump can celebrate its “total victory” and some vindication in the weeks ahead of the midterm elections. The second lawsuit and Mr. Avenatti’s presidential aspirations will be put to the test later.
Originally published on The Resurgent